Sometime on March 11 or 12, a terrorist infiltrated in Israel from Lebanon, and planted a sophisticated bomb near the Megiddo Junction, some 37 miles south of the Israel-Lebanon border. The bomb detonated on March 13, seriously wounding Israeli Arab Shareef ad-Din, 21, as he drove along Highway 65.
The incident marks major intelligence and operational failures on the part of the Israel Defense Forces. The political echelon should have ordered a military response; its failure to do so further erodes Israel’s deterrence.
It is believed that the terrorist was a Palestinian member of Hamas in southern Lebanon who was trained by Hezbollah to operate the shaped charge. Hamas recruits in the Tyre and Sidon refugee camps.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah knew about and approved the joint operation with Hamas, which left no fingerprints and for which neither organizations has taken responsibility.
According to intelligence data from various sources, Israeli security officials believe that in the runup to Ramadan there will be an unprecedented conflict with the Palestinian terrorist factions on several fronts, that may deteriorate into a military conflict more acute than the conflict in the Gaza Strip in May 2021.
Visible signs also testify to this: The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organizations have increased the incitement against Israel in recent weeks, and launched a campaign of psychological warfare to weaken Israel morale.
Saleh al-Arouri, the vice chairman of the Hamas movement and head of its military wing in the West Bank, the man who coordinates in Beirut the activity with Hezbollah, said in an interview by the official Hamas website on March 14, 2023, that the events to come will be very difficult for the “occupation and its settlers.” The “resistance” in the West Bank is in a state of escalation, and it is diversifying its weapons.
Marwan Issa, the shadowy deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip, hinted at the possibility of massive rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. He told the Al-Aqsa channel on March 15, 2023, that the “political project in the West Bank has ended; the enemy brought the Oslo Accords to an end; and the coming days will be eventful.”
Issa continued: A political solution in the West Bank “is a thing of the past…. Any escalation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque area will result in a reaction in the Gaza Strip; Hamas in Gaza will not [just] be an observer to events in Jerusalem.”
“The desire to commit suicide among the [Muslim] residents of the West Bank is unprecedented, and the state of resistance in the West Bank is excellent. So is the state of national unity in the face of the occupation,” the Hamas official claimed.
A spokesman for the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatened Israel with a new intifada and an unprecedented conflict.
The accumulation of these statements by the heads of terrorist organizations in the media, in combination with intelligence information, indicate an impending escalation. The security summit in Aqaba on Feb. 26 initiated by the United States has failed, and the fate of the next meeting, scheduled to take place in Sinai on March 19, is uncertain. It is very doubtful whether Israel will be able to stop the approaching tsunami of terrorism, since this is a strategic decision by the terrorist organizations in coordination with Iran.
The terrorist cells are showing an increased use of explosive devices in Judea and Samaria, and are attempting to activate them within Israel proper as well. The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) has recently foiled several attempted bombings by Palestinians from Judea and Samaria who were recruited by Hamas from the Gaza Strip through social networks.
According to Hamas officials, the attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on March 9, 2023 marks the organization’s decision to resume attacks within the Green Line.
According to security sources, Hezbollah Secretary-General Nasrallah increased his coordination meetings in Beirut’s al-Dahiya neighborhood with PIJ secretary general Ziad al-Nakhala and Hamas military chief Saleh al-Arouri, toward the beginning of Ramadan. An agreement was reportedly reached between Hezbollah, Hamas, PIJ00 and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to step up terrorist activities in the coming days.
Nasrallah said last week that Israel would collapse even before it marks the 80th year of its founding. The internal dispute in Israel and the wave of protests over the government’s judicial reform have increased the feeling among the terrorist organizations that Israel is on the verge of disintegration and that this is the time to increase the pressure.
Despite the hoopla at the time, the agreement regarding the division of Lebanon’s economic territorial waters designed by the United States, signed on October 27, 2022, did not reduce Hezbollah’s motivation for terrorism against Israel. Moreover, it allows Hamas to strengthen its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon and in the refugee camps in Tyre and Sidon.
Hamas officials say that the attacks on Israel in the coming days will be from all directions according to the doctrine of unification of the fronts, including rocket fire from southern Lebanon and infiltration operations from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory.
According to security officials in Israel, behind all this malevolent activity is Iran, which in the past year has smuggled arms and funds through Jordan to the northern West Bank into the hands of the terrorist organizations.
The axis of resistance led by Iran is preparing for a major escalation in the month of Ramadan. Israel is also seriously preparing for a scenario that may be bigger than the military conflict that took place in May 2021.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television, is a senior Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.